Trump wants to send immigrants from the border to Sanctuary Cities? Finally! After all, we’ve been lobbying, protesting, and organizing to put an end to the cruel and inhumane detention centers at the southern border. Please, we’ve said, let these exhausted, terrorized refugees and migrants come join the many generations who’ve come here to flee persecution and deprivation and pursue the American dream.
It’s disgusting and despotic for the American president to suggest that he’d like to “give” “rapists and murderers” to the cities whose policies he doesn’t like, and heartless to talk about any human being like a chemical weapon, let alone a political pawn. But of course, most Americans do not agree with his assessment of immigrants. There are hundreds of sanctuary cities and counties across the country–though the number depends on who’s counting, there are more than you might guess. It’s not only New York and San Francisco, either, but also 14 individual counties in Iowa.
We–in sanctuary districts and beyond–want to welcome immigrants because we are a nation of immigrants. We welcome them because their journeys to the US remind us of our own family’s histories. Because we value human life, individual freedom, and “freedom from fear.”
But it is also true that we need them. Reports come from all parts of the country saying that we’re facing a workforce shortage–or really, shortages in many different workforces–that immigration could help solve. Crops are rotting unpicked in the fields. Cher is wrong when she echoes Trump’s absurd idea that the country is “full” and says we are don’t have the resources “to take care of its own.”
In fact, we don’t have the people to take care of our own. The shortage in the home care workforce is cutting across geography and industry to hurt women, seniors, and people of color most of all. Because 10,000 people turned 65 today. And yesterday. And will tomorrow. 70% of them will need long-term care, for an average of three years. We know that female family members are usually the ones to take on the role of supporting family members, whether it’s caring for babies, a relative with a disability, or assisting aging parents, at a cost to themselves and to the national economy to which they were perhaps contributing, but now are subsidizing with their labor.
If there are not enough workers or available family members to provide in-home support, seniors choose between the danger of going without help and the expense (often greater than private, in-home support) of an assisted living facility. This is especially the case in less urban areas, where the distance it might take a homecare worker to travel to their clients can make it unfeasible. From the client side, it means there are no home care workers who live near you, even if you had the money to hire them. Sanctuary counties in rural America know this.
This is a ballooning crisis which requires many solutions, among them things like paid family leave and investments in developing and protecting this workforce. But one thing is very clear, and that’s that we need more workers—now.
Forbes recently reported that the coming crisis is “worse than you think.” They cite PHI, the Bronx-based advocate for the direct care workforce, as saying about a quarter of “workers at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and home care agencies” were born outside the U.S., yet 90% are citizens. Isn’t such integration into our communities the vision of immigration all political parties have dreamed of?
NPR reporter Mara Liasson told listeners that mayors of Sanctuary Cities interviewed said “Okay, that’s fine, we’ll take them.” And of course we would: they are human beings. But for those who need more numbers-driven reasons to welcome immigrants, we’d would like to amend “Okay, that’s fine,” to: “Please, for our families’ sakes, let them come.”